Women in Environment Dialogue 2019: in Environment Dialogue “Women Leading 4 Climate Action!”
Climate change is one of the most important societal issues currently facing the world. Recent weather events across South Africa have sparked popular interest in understanding the role of global warming in driving extreme weather. These events are part of a new pattern of more extreme weather across the globe, shaped in part by human-induced climate change
As the climate has warmed, some types of extreme weather have become more frequent and severe in recent times, with increases in deadly and devastating floods, extreme heat, and drought. Heat waves are longer and hotter. Heavy rains and flooding are more frequent. Climate change has shifted the odds and changed the natural limits.
There is a direct relationship between gender equality, women’s empowerment and climate change. On the one hand, women are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which could, in turn, exacerbate existing gender disparities. On the other hand, women have unique knowledge and skills that can help make the response to climate change more effective and sustainable.
In the recent times, South Africa, has experienced extreme weather conditions which resulted in floods that left devastating effects, specifically in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces. Extreme flooding and heavy rain significantly across KZN in April 2019, culminated in various parts of the province, claiming 23 lives and 32 patients in and around Durban. President Cyril Ramaphosa has in the aftermath of this catastrophe, declared a week of mourning for the victims of the floods.
Droughts have become more commonplace in South Africa in recent years. The latest period included three consecutive years of drier conditions. In some regions, such as the Western Cape, the country’s second largest province in terms of economic contribution, the drought continued into 2017. 3
Over the past two years the Western Cape was forced to set strict water restrictions – including curbs on irrigation – as dam levels dropped to below 20%. This had a direct effect on agriculture and food production, as well as ripple effects across the country. Climate change poses a threat to everyone. Governments, farmers and society in general need to take proactive steps to deal with the outcomes of changing weather patterns.
South Africa, as signatory to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and Paris Agreement, is required to heed the call by the UNFCCC for governments to develop and implement educational and public awareness programmes, foster access to information, and promote public participation in addressing climate change and its effects.
The Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries has been; through the annual “Women in Environment Conference”;
- championing the advancement of women’s economic empowerment and participation in the sector, as well as
- ensuring that women remain an integral part of government’s environment programmes and
- ensuring inclusiveness in environmental planning and decision-making through capacity building for women owned enterprises to enable their integration of are into the mainstream economic activity in South Africa
The dialogue is anchored in the environment sector gender strategy, which presents a comprehensive understanding of gender mainstreaming from an environment and sustainable development perspective and provides guidance on putting gender mainstreaming into practice in programme development and implementation.
Climate change has a greater impact on those sections of the population that are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or who have the least capacity to respond to natural hazards, such as droughts, landslides, floods and hurricanes.
Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes and labour markets compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation. Yet, women can (and do) play a critical role in response to climate change due to their local knowledge of and leadership in e.g. sustainable resource management and/or leading sustainable practices at the household and community level.
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